Matthew 6:16-18, 9:14-17; Mark 2:18-22; Luke 5:33-39
Summary: There is a time for fasting for the glory of God, and then there are times to enjoy food, company, and good times. However, some people are not satisfied with anything and prefer to stay miserable, indecisive, and closed to what God has in store for them.
I was born and reared in south Louisiana in the heart of what is known as “Cajun Country.” The city in which I grew up was surrounded by lakes, bayous, swamps, and refineries. You couldn’t go ten miles down one of the major highways that went through town before you spotted your first alligator lurking in the ditches and marshes, waiting for a deer, rabbit, turtle, or other unfortunate critter that got too close to the edge of the waters. We also were near crayfish holes, and during the proper seasons, a lot of families took nets and other traps to catch the “mudbugs.” Then they’d have a crayfish boil with spices, corn, potatoes, and onions all together in one big pot.
That was good eating, and so were the alligator tails after the hunters caught their yearly quota, sold the hides, and cut up the meat to give to neighbors or to sell at the local market (this was long before large grocery store chains or Walmart). Basically, our diet was what some states used for fish bait. Food and good times on weekends were a part of the Cajun life. French surnames were as common to me as “Smith” or “Jones” were in other places. By the way, words like “vegan,” “keto,” “paleo,” “gluten-free,” “low sodium,” and “low calorie” did not exist in our culture.
I say all of this to show that once upon a time, people enjoyed life, their friends, neighbors, relatives, good company, and good food, and things tended to be a little slower and easy-going than today.
When anyone got sick and had to go to the hospital, concepts such as going without meals or water for set amounts of time were not a part of the preparation or regimen for getting patients on their feet quicker or to adjust to new ways of living better. The first thing often waiting for the recuperating patient at home was food brought over by family and friends, and not what we would consider healthy today. Meals such as fried chicken, pasta, pies and cakes, breads, vegetables smothered in real butter or thick sauces, and sweet tea with real sugar were a treat for them. Same thing went with funerals, a Southern tradition if ever there was one.
The years have come and gone, and my health, in particular, has brought about changes in my diet and routine. When I have been hospitalized for any time over a day or two, I have been ordered by my physician to abstain from food or water for set times in order to have more accurate readings on my organs or other areas or for a medication to work effectively, or a clearer diagnosis of blood samples.
A couple of years ago, I had to undergo three days of tests and procedures and could not eat until everything was done. The first day was pretty rough, but by the end of the third day, I really was not hungry and did not want to fill myself up with anything sweet, salty, or fried. Right now, due to kidney problems, my food intake is drastically decreased of my own choice, and I have cut out foods that I once craved but do not find the least bit appetizing now. I eat when I’m hungry, which is not all that often.
I have come to appreciate the concept of fasting or decreasing one’s intake of food for a period of time for medical reasons. But when we read of people fasting in the Scriptures, it is for the purpose of being nearer to God in prayer, studying the Word, getting away from the things of the world, and resting in Him.
We read of Moses, Elijah, the Lord Jesus, Daniel, and Paul all going without food or water for set times, either as a sign of repentance or to endure temptations, and often to seek God’s counsel through prayer (Exodus 34:28; 1 Kings 19:8; Daniel 10:3; Luke 4; Matthew 4; Acts 9:9).
As we venture further into Mark’s Gospel, we come to Chapter 2, verses 18-22, where the disciples of John the Baptist were practicing fasting for the sake of personal piety and dedication to God, while the sanctimonious Pharisees were fasting in order to look pious and holy before the people. One group was sincere; the other one did it for show. Jesus’ own disciples were asked why they did not participate in fasting while the other two groups made it a part of their lives.
Jesus tells both groups and the crowds around Him that this is no time for such a discipline to take place, nor for somberness and rigid religious practices. Jesus tells everyone that these days are for good times and joy. A wedding celebration is fixing to take place, and everyone is invited to participate. Jesus wants no one left out of what will be the crowning event of all history.
In His teaching, Jesus presents a foretaste of the happiness that He, the eternal Bridegroom, will have with His Bride, the people of God who will make up the future church. While He was around, there would be a time of happiness and joy. Look at the evidence for such a claim:
- Lepers were healed.
- People were freed from all sicknesses and diseases.
- The paralyzed now walked.
- People were delivered from demon possession.
- People were being saved from sin.
- The Gospel message was being preached, telling all people of the kingdom of God and the offer of redemption from sin forever.
Who wouldn’t be happy under those circumstances?
You don’t decide to join a weight-loss support group on the day of the wedding feast. Jesus spoke of how the disciples would cherish and celebrate the time they would have with the Lord Jesus while He was here on Earth. The day would soon arrive where the joy would turn to sorrow and lament as the Bridegroom would be taken away from them. This was the Lord’s way of describing the approaching betrayal, arrest, torment, and crucifixion He would endure for the sake of fallen, sinful humanity. The Bridegroom’s friends would mourn but only for a short time.
All of what was to come in the life of Jesus was to become a new covenant between God and His people by the atoning work of Christ on the cross and His resurrection from the dead three days later. He then tells of the Old Covenant that existed between God and Israel through the means of the sacrifices in accordance with the Law of Moses. This act of consecration and atonement was one of the signs to show the Gentile world that there was a special relationship that separated the Jews from everyone else. They had been living under the Law for over 1,500 years. Had they been faithful during that time? By no means. Israel was steeped in devotion to the worship of idols, a fact affirmed by the Old Testament writings and secular history.
The Old Covenant, according to Jesus, was like an old, worn-out garment that had seen better days. The Gospel of grace that He preached and would be continued by the apostles and future generations was a new patch of unshrunk cloth. You could not sew it onto the old garment because the new patch, as it shrank, would further tear the old garment and render it useless. You could not blend the two fabrics together. The old covenant of the Law could not take upon itself the covenant of grace because that would be a heresy of faith plus works, which would nullify the entire purpose and message of the Gospel itself.
The same principle is true for animal skins that were used to make and ferment wine. Each skin drew out the dregs as it was poured into another skin and produced a good wine, free from impurities. The old skins would become dry and brittle, and unusable. You did not pour new wine into them, for they would split and ruin everything. New wineskins had to be used for new batches of wine.
Again, Jesus is teaching that the new covenant of grace could not be placed within the old covenant of the Law. His work of salvation as the last, perfect sacrifice for sins (a main point of the book of Hebrews) is the new wine, pure and fresh, and to drink it was pure joy. Old religions and new life in Christ cannot and will not mix. Jesus offers freedom from religious works and formats, which cannot save you in the first place. Jesus’ sacrifice paid it all. This new wine would be at the table of the church and a part of a wonderful celebration that will continue into eternity in heaven with Him and our brethren throughout the ages.
The sad fact is that a lot of people prefer the old wine of works, good deeds, self-righteousness, rituals, routines, and other methods that they believe will get them into heaven as well, but to no avail (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Romans 5:6-11; Ephesians 2:8-9).
Does this look like something you are doing now, trying to make things right in your own strength? God says our righteousness is no better than rags used for menstrual periods (Isaiah 53:6, 64:6). We cannot save or redeem ourselves. We all must turn to Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins and the salvation of our souls. We must receive with gratitude and joy the undeserved gift of new life He offers us now (2 Corinthians 6:2; James 4:17).
I ask of you today to come to Christ and be a part of the joyous wedding party that will soon commence with His arrival and establishment of the eternal kingdom.
As we Cajuns tell someone to come join us at the table – sit down, grab a plate, and “pass a good time.”
I’ve started a daily broadcast on YouTube entitled “The Reality City Daily Review” every weekday morning at 10:00 CST live (USA). It will then be posted on Facebook and on my website: www.realitycityreverend.com later that day. My main area of discussion will be on the basics of the Christian faith but will also deal with prophetic issues and other topics as the Lord impresses upon me to handle.